Is technology a real substitute for a handshake?
"Sorry, I can't talk any more I've got to go and collect the kids from
school". So ended the telephone conversation that was made whilst
we were investigating a very impressive new derivatives website.
We thought we were dealing with their office and talking to the
technical director. We probably were but we did not realise that he
worked from home (because he did not need to have an office in
The lesson, of course, is to make sure that you know with whom you
are dealing. Although the net is a wonderful communication
medium, impressive websites can be, and sometimes are, fronts for
very insubstantial operations. Virtual companies can be just that.
Does this matter? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't.
The web has enabled many new commercial relationships to
develop and has disintermediated many others. But where these
relationships imply trusting the other party to deliver something, the
substance of the operation begins to matter. When a service is
delivered instantly over the web, it is easy to rely on it; any
subsequent disruption of the service will matter.
This episode has reminded us of the need to get behind the hype of
the hyperlink and determine with whom we are dealing. How
confident are you on this?